Are you or a loved-one struggling with infertility? Are you wondering why you still suffer from acne, oily skin, or dandruff? Are you overweight even though you have tried numerous diet plans? Have you experienced anxiety or depression? Well, all of these varied symptoms might all have the same root cause – a common female hormonal imbalance known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a situation that occurs when a woman’s hormones have gone out of balance. The sex hormones are no longer secreted in the correct proportion. A woman’s female hormones get out of balance with her male hormones. This can cause a variety of problems including acne, increased body and facial hair, and even reduced fertility.
The hormone imbalance can also increase insulin resistance. This insulin resistance can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels and can increase your chance of getting diabetes.
This imbalance of male and female hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone) causes the growth of cysts on the ovaries. These painful cysts reduce fertility and substantially increase the risk of giving birth to a child with autism.
What are the Symptoms of PCOS?
The symptoms of PCOS generally fall into three different categories:
- Menstrual and reproductive issues
- Skin Issues
- Metabolic and weight issues.
Women with PCOS often experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. They often experience infertility problems. If a woman is able to get pregnant, she may suffer from a higher rate of spontaneous abortion. This occurs in almost one third of all pregnancies.
People with PCOS also have a wide variety of skin issues. The biggest skin complaint is acne. Another common complaint is excessive hair growth where it is unwanted. This excess hair is on the upper lip, chin, back and buttocks. It is basically hair growth on women that is more typical of hair growth on men. Again, this is showing hormones that are out of balance.
Finally, PCOS is characterized by obesity and various metabolic issues. Many women with PCOS have severe insulin resistance even when they aren’t obese. This insulin resistance can lead to additional weight gain and can be a contributing factor in developing diabetes.
What is the Cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
There is a definite genetic predisposition towards having PCOS. But genetics is not necessarily destiny. There is a significant diet and lifestyle component to PCOS that can be influenced by an individual’s choices. Diet and lifestyle choices that increase the likelihood of developing high blood sugar and insulin resistance will also increase the likelihood of developing PCOS.
How is PCOS Treated?
Since diet and lifestyle can increase the chance of getting PCOS, modifying your diet to reduce blood sugar spikes and to reduce your chance of insulin resistance will have a positive effect on PCOS.
Lifestyle modification is critical for treating PCOS. Eating a diet that is low in carbohydrates and extremely low in processed food is an important starting point for treating PCOS. It is extremely important to control blood sugars. This can be influenced by increasing non-starchy vegetables, increasing fiber, and sharply reducing sugar consumption. To lower blood sugar you need to control the consumption of all foods that turn into sugar in your body. This includes starchy foods such as bread and desserts that are filled with flour and sugar.
Lifestyle modification also includes adding in physical movement. Using the large muscles in your body is an important part of reducing your average blood sugar.
Chronic stress is also a contributor to PCOS since it can increase the level of male hormones such as testosterone. Learning to manage chronic stress and developing a calming practice is very important for managing PCOS long term.
Visceral fat is also associated with PCOS. That extra fat that surrounds your organs and generates additional unwanted hormone production can be a further contributor to PCOS. Losing weight can produce a reduction in visceral fat and losing visceral fat is an important factor to consider in treating PCOS.
What Should You do if You Have Symptoms of PCOS?
If you have PCOS, you have an excellent chance to reduce its severity and turn your health around. The best way to approach this is to use a functional medicine approach. You want to treat the root cause of PCOS and not just manage symptoms.
Learn how changes in lifestyle, diet and stress can reduce and even reverse your PCOS. By working with your functional medicine physician, you can put together a plan for reducing the causes behind PCOS and sharply reducing the symptoms and negative consequences. Together with your functional medicine physician, you can create a plan that will lower your blood sugar and reduce your insulin resistance.
As always, if you are concerned that you might be suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome, talk to your physician so that you can get a proper diagnosis and begin on a treatment plan tailored for your specific issues.